I came across a tweet recently by Richard Caldwell. It reads:
“Could it be that God didn’t wire us to carry every event, taking place in every part of the world, at every moment, as it if were ours? Could it be that technology has produced a faux omniscience and omnipresence that is hurting mankind not helping it? Just a thought.”
People have written for some time about the amount of information modern humans are exposed to. This article, from a couple of years ago, offers 34 GB as the volume of daily data we consume. This is surely a real issue; no wonder we’re tired so often! We mentally sift through it all, trying to discern between fact and opinion.
But Mr Caldwell is actually getting at something else. Specifically, the breadth of exposure to news and major current events, and the impact that has on our souls. Alan Shlemon of Stand To Reason ministries wrote this insightful piece on it, entitled “How 2020 is taking a toll on your soul.” I encourage you to read it, but I’ll cover the gist of it.
Newspapers, then television, then computers, now smartphones: more information is available about more tragic events and bad news, and it’s available sooner than ever before. Which is to say nothing about the bias and motivation of the one reporting the information to you. There are two illusions to point out with respect to this:
- The quantity and breadth of information available to us leads to the illusion that we are everywhere, seeing and experiencing all the major events that affect our planet and our kind. This is faux-omnipresence. Whether it’s a huge explosion in Beirut, or black man being murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, we witness these tragedies and see the suffering of those directly affected. We see the sorrow, the anger, the grief, and it affects us. Can our hearts and souls really bear that much? Are we able to cope with a planet-load of emotion? As we observe and spend emotional energy on these events, are we then less able to bear one another’s burdens in our local church community?
- No matter how much we see or news articles we read, we still don’t know everything about it. This is faux-omniscience. Even if we saw a video of an event, we didn’t see all of the events leading up to it. Nor can we see all of the actions and motivations behind it. Only God truly knows these details. Only God is truly omniscient. This becomes especially important to remember when events demand a response. “Did you hear?” “What do you think?” “Who is at fault?” “What should be done?” With the speed of the information comes the speed of the requirement to opine about it. It’s exhausting!
To be honest, I’m working through what this means for me. What is of chief importance is that being immersed in the Word of God must take precedence over being immersed in the news. Do I read the news? Listen to podcasts? Read blogs and articles? Sure. But look, there is far more content out there than I can possibly read. Even if I reduce that down to content I am interested in, there is still too much. So what do I prioritise? It must be the Bible. The Bible is soul food, and reading is intended to nourish. Bible first, then the news.
Another thought: there are tragedies that unfold. There always will be. In Luke 13:1-4 Jesus is informed of a current tragedy that has unfolded. How does He respond? He used it in a didactic way. A terrible fate befell some people. That is not because they were particularly sinful, Jesus says. There is a far worse fate awaiting all who refuse to repent and believe the gospel. Jesus doesn’t initiate a protest against Pilate, start a campaign for Galilean lives, or indeed for more stringent building regulations for tower construction. Rather, He steers us back to what really matters: our standing before God.
What do you think about this? Is your soul wearied by the amount of news and content we see? Do you think it’s taking its toll? Is it impacting your ability to spend emotional energy on your spouse, family or church community?